Bolivian Government Training Civilians in the Use of Weapons: Senators Demand Explanation
Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, 10 August, 2010: Opposition party senators presented a petition requesting the general commander of the (Bolivian) Army present an oral report in the senate to explain who ordered the military training of civilians in various barracks throughout the country, and what the objective and reasons are for this new program, which is being called “patriot training”.
Marcelo Antezana, a former Army commander and now a Convergencia Nacional (CN) party senator, confirmed yesterday that this petition was presented in response to information broadcast by the media, on the 4th of August, regarding the training of civilians in the Ranger barracks of Santa Cruz, which is causing great concern among the public.
He stated it is important to know who ordered this be done, to establish responsibilities and reveal the intentions of this type of program, adding that the General Commander of the Army cannot act alone without having first informed the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Evo Morales.
He indicated that this petition, signed by senators who are members of the Defense Committee, is directed to the Ministry of Defense, requesting the latter order the general commander of the Army present a report to the Senate within a maximum of 15 days.
According to the senator, the explanations offered by the military high command, who stated this is being done because of the threat of possible war, is not credible as it contradicts the Constitution which renounces war as a solution to international conflicts.
“It looks more like training to prepare armed civilian militias, members of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS party), who support the current government, so they can take action in case of domestic conflicts, similar to the “Bolivarian” militias of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, more apt for urban and rural guerrilla wars when they feel they’ve been defeated during elections”, stated the senator.
The former military commander warned that this civilian training may be linked to the formation of a paramilitary group that was trained at the Cóndores military school, and denounced in 2006, allegedly to provide security for the president.
Training at Military Police Barracks
The military training was provided to about one hundred civilians over a two-day period at the Military Police Regiment as was called an “updating” for reservists (those who have completed their mandatory military service) and women who are willing to receive this type of instruction.
Military Police commander Alexander Arandia confirmed the training, explaining that it was being offered to instill civic values, historic values, and the theoretical and practical use of weapons. “We reviewed shooting theory and practice, instructed them in the use of arms, and reviewed weapons and shooting techniques.”
Arandia explained that this instruction is provided to the general population, not only members of the social movements. “When the order is given, we immediately begin to call upon people.”
Regarding this, Arandia stated that when the orders were given, the regiments went “where there might be the greatest quantity of people, such as unions or social movements.”
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Source: Los Tiempos